Horse yanking reins from rider's hands... - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 22 Old 03-09-2015, 02:48 AM
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Originally Posted by ecasey View Post
My daughter is riding an almost 5-year-old gelding who's a very sweet-natured New Forest horse, about 14 hands high. He's still a baby so he likes to play games and nibble more than he should, but he's smart, willing, and very forward. He's a great jumper and works with her about 3x a week in lessons in a dressage style arena. He jumps just smaller jumps now, 1x a week. I have an experienced rider on him each weekend to keep him tuned up.

The last couple weeks he's developed this habit of jerking his head down really far, really fast, effectively either yanking my daughter forward or pulling the reins out of her hands. He does it hard enough to move her off the saddle a bit, and he's doing it often during a 1-hour lesson.

She's not heavy-handed on the reins; in fact, her trainer often tells her to have more contact than she does. I never see her jerking on them, although he is hard to slow down so still needs a lot of rein cue versus just seat cues.

He's not in a new bit or bridle. I had a back doctor out last week and she said he was stiff in his lower back and she adjusted him and showed us stretching exercises which we've been doing every day. She also checked his saddle fit and said it was fine. He had a vet check a month ago and his teeth were fine. (I mention all this stuff because I know the first response to every behavioral issue is to check the saddle, back, and teeth.)

Essentially, nothing has changed except that a week into the behavior he had his back checked and fixed.

Anyone have experience with this and know how to resolve it?

ETA: We use a snaffle with full cheek bars. He does this behavior while she's at a standstill usually, but sometimes also while trotting or walking. Never while cantering.
It sounds as though you are dealing with a number of different issues. My approach would be to limit the work so the issues can be addressed systematically.

You mention that you have an experienced rider riding the horse on weekends. Have you watched how this rider is riding him? Just because a rider is experienced does not mean that the rider rides well.

First, I would discontinue jumping until the rider has better control of the horse. Jumping a horse that is not under control establishes bad habits that take more time to correct than taking the time to teach proper control initially. Once proper control is established, other work can progress more quickly.

There are a number of ways to address the head jerking issue as well as the slowing issue. Most methods, however, would be like applying dressings to a wound. This may need to be done, but the main emphasis should be on learning to avoid getting the injury in the first place.

Applying this analogy, I would start working with this horse as if neither it nor the rider had any experience. I would work on establishing a good, balanced, relaxed seat. I would work on teaching the horse to respond to basic cues without tension so that its movements would be both smooth and controlled.

Unless one has first established a good foundation, he can try to build a superstructure over and over again only to find that it will eventually collapse.

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post #12 of 22 Old 03-09-2015, 07:35 AM
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DD was having this trouble with her pony last summer. She came off three times in 2 days and it really shook her confidence. I ordered a daisy rein, but the tack shop kept finding excuses why it didn't come in so I resorted to a bit of twice tied from one of the d rings of her saddle to the bridle. Pony was clever enough to not even try it again.

Maybe get the daisy rein and use it while on the flat, if the instructor is going to throw in a jump you can remove it easily during the lesson.
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post #13 of 22 Old 03-09-2015, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
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The bit and bridle are fine. Those were the first things I checked.

The trainer doesn't ride the horse, but he is ridden by one of her advanced students, and she feels this is good enough. I trust her judgment.

Thanks to everyone who responded with ideas and thoughts. We'll see what happens after our next few lessons. I talked to my daughter this morning to discuss the forum feedback and she told me the last time he tried to do it, she held onto her saddle and when he tried to do it again, he banged his mouth onto his bit and stopped immediately. So she may have struck on the solution herself. IN the meantime, I've sent an email to the trainer so we can address the situation in our next sessions directly.

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ” ~ William Shakespeare
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post #14 of 22 Old 03-11-2015, 05:47 PM
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Agree, what does the trainer say? I'm a little concerned about a child being the primary rider for a horse this young, esp if he's already getting away with stuff.

I wouldn't consider this a "fix" (though it will help) but what I would do as an in the moment thing would be to let him pull (you can't really stop them unless you see it coming) and let the hands go right down to the base of the neck and brace there, feel free to let the thumbs dig in and the horse whack their mouth, it's not supposed to be pleasant. This isn't about keeping control (though it will and will keep the reins in the hands) it's about correction. Your daughter should be able to hold the reins with this method. If she can't I'd be questioning her riding the pony atm.

Now as far as fixing the issue there are different methods and imo it depends on the horse and the why and is something someone else should fix (not your daughter) or if your daughter is ready to work on this should be coached through by someone more experienced.

ETA- missed the "hard to slow" I agree that's another, big, issue. Sounds like your daughter did what I suggested. I would have her try it on his neck in front of the saddle. It is easier to brace there and the horse gets the benefit of thumbs in the neck too. Since he stopped so quickly my guess is he's just being a fussy baby. Add a "bad horse noise" (I would use "eh!") as a deterrent, eventually she can just say "eh!" when he is fidgety.
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post #15 of 22 Old 03-11-2015, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by ecasey View Post
The bit and bridle are fine. Those were the first things I checked.

The trainer doesn't ride the horse, but he is ridden by one of her advanced students, and she feels this is good enough. I trust her judgment.
I wouldn't.
It's your daughter's safety that is the issue.
I used my OWN horses for my lessons and I mimicked what MY instructor did. HE was in charge of the lesson horses. They KNEW that if they misbehaved, he would dismount any of us, get on, discipline the horse, and then we would continue the lesson. This didn't happen every lesson, but we ALL, including the other lesson horses KNEW what a horse was in "trouble."
During my lessons, I always walked in the middle of the arena and I carried a whip. Should my horse not move out, I flicked the whip. I had few problems with my horses stopping, just not taking cues from my students bc of their inexperience.
My horses KNEW that I was the herd leader and to listened to ME, or else I would have a private training session after my lesson with that horse to fix the disobedience. After awhile those kind of sessions became fewer and fewer.
My lesson program MADE my horses manageable and we would take them to weekend CW events and there, out in the open, with sometimes not so great riders, they BEHAVED.
Get your trainer on this pony, or get a new trainer. Your money is going down a drain, your trainer is being lazy letting a student do the training, more like riding practice for the student, and one bad fall from a bolting pony and your daughter could fall and break her arm, or worse.
THIS is why ponies get their bad reputations, bc they rr little kids. =/
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post #16 of 22 Old 03-11-2015, 06:26 PM
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I wouldn't.
It's your daughter's safety that is the issue.
I used my OWN horses for my lessons and I mimicked what MY instructor did. HE was in charge of the lesson horses. They KNEW that if they misbehaved, he would dismount any of us, get on, discipline the horse, and then we would continue the lesson. This didn't happen every lesson, but we ALL, including the other lesson horses KNEW what a horse was in "trouble."
During my lessons, I always walked in the middle of the arena and I carried a whip. Should my horse not move out, I flicked the whip. I had few problems with my horses stopping, just not taking cues from my students bc of their inexperience.
My horses KNEW that I was the herd leader and to listened to ME, or else I would have a private training session after my lesson with that horse to fix the disobedience. After awhile those kind of sessions became fewer and fewer.
My lesson program MADE my horses manageable and we would take them to weekend CW events and there, out in the open, with sometimes not so great riders, they BEHAVED.
Get your trainer on this pony, or get a new trainer. Your money is going down a drain, your trainer is being lazy letting a student do the training, more like riding practice for the student, and one bad fall from a bolting pony and your daughter could fall and break her arm, or worse.
THIS is why ponies get their bad reputations, bc they rr little kids. =/
The scenario you're writing out sounds very familiar (eye roll).

While I do think the trainer is more involved than what was written Corporal has a very valid point and is something the OP should think on.

There is the flip side of the fact that this is NOT a lesson horse but is owned by the OP (am I incorrect?) so I can see the trainer pushing for more from the rider and less from his/herself though the point still stands.
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post #17 of 22 Old 03-11-2015, 07:33 PM Thread Starter
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Corporal, I appreciate your feedback, I really do, but you're really getting worked up about something that's pretty minor. I promise. This is somewhat normal behavior from a youngster and fixable. It's not a hole in the training or a bad trainer issue, it's a horse finding a solution to its problem and a rider needing to learn how to fix the problem and whatever was causing it.

At my last lesson, I discussed it with my trainer and her solution was to (1) give the horse a lot of loose rein when he was supposed to be relaxing (my daughter was keeping contact all the time, so she's the one who's caused the problem to some degree), and (2) if he did do it again, to use the loud, "Eh!" and hold firm to the saddle OR pull hard on one rein.

My trainer/instructor has been riding and teaching for a looonng time and her club ponies are really great as a result of her methods, as are her students who've been with her awhile. In other words, she knows what she's doing. She's not lazy and my money is very well spent with her (contrary to your statements). You don't know her so you can't be blamed for jumping to the wrong conclusions; I'm sure there are lots of crap trainers out there, but she's not one of them.

I come on the forum to ask questions when she's not available or when I want other opinions, but I have yet to find a situation where she's been wrong. So I appreciate you being concerned for my daughter's safety, but in this case, it's not warranted. We're on the problem and it's being resolved.
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post #18 of 22 Old 03-11-2015, 07:36 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Yogiwick View Post
The scenario you're writing out sounds very familiar (eye roll).

While I do think the trainer is more involved than what was written Corporal has a very valid point and is something the OP should think on.

There is the flip side of the fact that this is NOT a lesson horse but is owned by the OP (am I incorrect?) so I can see the trainer pushing for more from the rider and less from his/herself though the point still stands.
Yes, we own the horse. Our instructor does mount the horse when there's an issue she needs to evaluate from the saddle or when the horse needs to learn some manners (has never happened with this particular horse, but I've seen her do it to another horse we had that we have since sold). She will also mount if there's a difficult dressage-type maneuver that is new to the horse and rider. She makes sure the horse knows it well first before allowing the rider to do it. Then she'll usually keep doing it with the horse as the rider is learning to be sure the horse remembers the proper way to do it (since I, for example, have bad form sometimes and confuse my poor horse.)

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post #19 of 22 Old 03-11-2015, 10:03 PM
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I'm someone else that's with the Daisy reins
We used them on a pony that had been allowed to graze when being ridden and would drag my skinny little son right over his head - they worked really well - broke the habit'
You can easily take them off when she wants to do some jumping
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post #20 of 22 Old 03-12-2015, 04:48 PM
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Sounds like you are on the right track then. Sometimes all that's needed is to communicate so everyone's on the same page and knows the plan.
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